Endodontics and Root Canal Treatment

Endodontics Root Canal Procedure

What is endodontics and root canal treatment?

Endodontics is a special branch of dentistry that focuses on the dental pulp inside of our teeth. Root canal treatment is a common procedure - more than 15 million teeth are treated and saved each year with it. A root canal is one example of endodontic treatment.

After completing their dentistry training, some dentists develop a special interest in endodontics and take further training to manage more complex cases. Specialists in endodontics usually limit their practice to endodontics and are registered on the General Dental Council’s list of Dental Specialists in the UK.

How do you know if you need root canal treatment?

Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp - the soft tissue inside the root canal - becomes inflamed or infected. Treatment will save the tooth from needing to be removed. If your tooth is damaged, bacteria can get inside it - this causes irritation, pain and swelling. If the pulp inside the tooth becomes infected, this can spread into the pulp inside the root canal.

The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay; repeated dental procedures on the tooth; or a crack in the tooth. An injury to a tooth can impact the pulp, even if there is no visible damage. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

The symptoms of needing a root canal

Symptoms that you may need a root canal include:

  • Severe pain while chewing or biting
  • A cracked/fractured tooth
  • Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the sensation has been removed
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Deep decay or darkening of the tooth

If left untreated, the infection in the tooth can spread to other parts of the body, and in some cases can even be life threatening. If you are in need of a root canal, the infected pulp in the tooth needs to be removed.

What is the root canal procedure?

The procedure removes the infected pulp and nerve in the root of the tooth, cleans and shapes the inside of the root canal, then fills and seals the space. Afterwards, your dentist might need to place a crown on the tooth to protect and restore it to its original function. The root canal may be done by your dentist, or you may be referred to an endodontist, who specialises in this treatment and works with a microscope.

The treatment isn’t painful. A local anaesthetic is used and the procedure feels similar to having a filling.

1. Once the area is numb, your dentist will place a thin rubber sheet inside your mouth. This is called a rubber dam and covers everything except the tooth being worked on. It helps to keep the area around the tooth clean and stop the spread of any infection.

2. Using a drill, your dentist will make a hole in the top of your tooth and remove the pulp. They will clean out the empty hole using small instruments and a liquid to disinfect the inside of the tooth and make sure all the infected material is flushed out. The instruments help to make the canals a more regular shape to enable the tooth to be filled and cleaned more precisely.

3. Once the tooth is clean, your dentist will fill and seal it. Unless the dentist is sure that all infection has been removed, they will put in a temporary filling. You’ll then have a second appointment to have the tooth permanently filled. If your tooth is badly worn or is at risk of further damage, your dentist may suggest having a crown fitted, which is an artificial cap that fits over your tooth.

What should I expect after root canal treatment?

For the first few days after a root canal, some patients experience sensitivity, swelling, or inflammation. Regardless of symptoms, a follow-up appointment is almost always needed.

Unless told otherwise, you can brush and floss your teeth as usual after the treatment.

Your endodontist will likely suggest you avoid hard or very chewy foods after treatment, and to be careful around the affected area. You may need a follow up X-ray to ensure the tooth is healing well.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, would like to know more about endodontics, or book a consultation, visit Angle House.